As the Woodworking In America Conference is quickly approaching, I'd like to turn the spotlight on two more toolmakers I spoke with at last year's conference: Andrew Lunn of Eccentric Toolworks and Gary Blum of Blum Tool Company. Both men will be at this year's conference, so if you're visiting the Marketplace, be sure to stop by their booths.
Because I did not have enough time to speak with them in-depth at last year's conference, I wrote and asked them to tell me about their tools and what makes them special.
Andrew Lunn wrote this about his handsaws:
I suppose the way I would characterize my saws is that they are each made with extreme care, by hand, and have a very considerable amount of attention paid to detail. I am very picky about how the saws function and about how they look. They are not actual copies of existing saws, but are my own designs that are based upon a lot of thought, experimentation, and the study of old saws.
I like giving my saws a unique visual identity, with the carved scrolls, unusual lamb's tongues, and the filework done to the toes of the hand saws and panel saws.
My saws are very detailed functionally, as well. Sawing well is a skill, and I carefully design my saws to respond to, and to complement a skilled hand. The capacity for finesse and touch are built into the saws themselves. So even though the saws are visually unique, there is also a lot to them that is rather subtle and that you can't necessarily see by just looking at them. You have to use them before you see it.
Gary Blum wrote this about his planes:
My planes are different in many ways from the standard metal or wood planes. The bottom line, though, is that they take shavings and smooth wood just like any other plane.
The biggest thing which sets my planes apart from others is the reverse angle frog. By mounting a frog at this reverse angle, it allows for some very unique advantages for my planes. Depth adjustments are in a direct line with no connections, so there is no backlash in the screws. By having 2 screws for adjustments, lateral adjustments are done at the same time. The front of the frog becomes the chipbreaker, so no separate one is required. The frog itself can be cambered and the small blade simply bent to it by the back up iron, so you can always grind a straight blade and have a perfect camber. The mouth opening is parallel at the front and back so there is no mouth opening up as the sole is trued. The frog will pivot foreward or back to open or close the mouth and this can be done with no tools.
However, my main motivation for developing this plane was to eliminate the grinding step required for the plane iron. In talking with other woodworkers over the years, the main reason they didn't use their planes ( and therefore didn't know what they were capable of ), was the sharpening issue. The average woodworker does not have a good way to grind a 2 3/8" plane iron to a specific angle, keep it square, and straight, and not burn the edge. My thin irons only require honing, which can be done on a fixed angle jig, so it is a much simpler procedure.
I really enjoy the woodworking aspect of making my planes. Mesquite wood is my most popular choice, and it's a real pleasure to work with. I also use maple, walnut, cherry, rosewood, and jatoba. I have also done custom woods that the customer supplies. Since my planes are all handmade, I can change various things like handles, finish, length, etc.
As I've said before, we're incredibly fortunate to have so many people who devote their careers to making superbly-crafted hand tools. If you can try them out in person, that's always the best way to tell if the tool is right for you. But, if you're not able to attend the WIA Conference, perhaps Andrew's and Gary's write-ups will help in your decision-making as you consider which tools should be employed in your workshop.